Epiphany Year C

Welcome to the Season of Epiphany

(From the introduction to January 6th Epiphany guide)

Word Study

Ἐπιφάνεια: The Greek word from which the English transliterates Epiphany is a combination of a preposition and a verbal idea. Epi-upon and fainō-to shine, illuminate. An epiphany is literally a “shining or illumination” upon something or someone. In its historical usage it is more precisely an appearance or manifestation. In this case, that which was formerly “unseen” is now “seen”.

In Greek literature it was often used as a luminous and mighty advent of the gods to succor a people in need. The word is closely related to another English word transliterated from Greek, “theophany”. A theophany is an appearance of a deity. The Hebrew Bible is replete with such theophanies, not least Jacob’s wrestling match with God in Genesis 32, “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered’” (Genesis 32:30 ESV).

Epiphany within Church History: Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on January 6. At its core, it is a liturgical declaration of God’s incarnation, his advent into human need, his glorious shining upon our world. 

The church has celebrated various milestones of that appearance on this day throughout history. It has commemorated the arrival of the Magi from the East (an arrival that echoes well with today’s text from Isaiah 60–more to be said on that later), the Baptism of Jesus in which God manifested his beloved Son, and the miracle at Cana of Galilee in John 2 in which after the manifestation of Jesus’ power in turning water into wine, his disciples believed. Some traditions even celebrate his birth on this day. 

The majority of western Christianity, though, has tended to recognize this day as the arrival of the astrologers from the East and an affirmation of the nations or “goyim” streaming to Israel’s light as referenced in Isaiah 60:5. It is called Three Kings Day in some regions of the world. For the English speaking world, it immediately followed the completion of the 12-day season of Christmas. Shakespeare’s whimsical comedy Twelfth Night was purportedly written to be performed on the close of the Christmas Season before the dawning of the day of Epiphany. 

Scott Bullock

Key Features 


  • Summary of the Text
  • Key Quote
  • Key Illustration 
  • More Illustration and Quote Themes
  • Liturgical Elements

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